Yes, yes. You know what to do. Work out more. Do some cardio and some strength training. Sitting is the new smoking. If you don’t exercise, you increase your risk for cancer and diabetes and premature death. You get it.
But if it’s so easy, why isn’t everyone able to stick to his or her resolutions and make new workout habits?
Actually, it’s because creating a good habit isn’t easy. How can you make your workout plan stick the year?
1. Think small. Really, really small.
If your resolution is to run a marathon, I salute you, especially if your current runs are just for Starbucks.
But be realistic. And start small, because small is much more attainable. Actually, boring is also more attainable. Say you want to run a marathon. Start with plans to jog for 10 minutes a day.
A big change is going to send signals to your subconscious – signals like, “holy hell, remember how those four laps around the track in high school felt? Do that 26+ times? I think not.” And your subconscious is a strong and evil bitch. Sneak up on her and make your big goals easier to reach.
2. Do it every day.
Giving yourself cheat days or days off makes it harder to form a habit. So if exercise is on your list, do SOMETHING every day. Even parking far away from Target and having to make the hike to and from your car can count, as long as you’re doing something.
3. Until it becomes automatic, keep a record.
Did you workout today? Write it down. And tomorrow, write that down, too. If you can see your habit developing, it’s easier to stick to it.
Take fitbits and fuel bands and all those cool tech gadgets that track your activity. If you set your goal of walking 10 flights of stairs a day, and you see that you walked 8, chances are pretty good that you’ll walk up and down the stairs twice before bed – just to hit that number, especially if you did it yesterday.
4. And set reminders
Use your email, your smartphone, alarms, sticky notes. Go high tech or low. Find ways to remind yourself that, Hey, it’s 12 p.m., it’s time to get up and move. Hey, it’s 2 p.m., it’s time to do some more moving. Hey, don’t you have a Pilates class at 7 p.m. to go to?
5. Block your distractions
Did you know that there are computer programs to save you from yourself? I personally set limits on my total time on Facebook, Gawker and Buzzfeed – all major time sucks for me. The amount of productivity I’ve found is shocking. I really hesitate to admit how much time I spent on those sites. I was completely absorbed with, “Woman Accused of Stabbing Beerless Man With Ceramic Squirrel” and “Watch a Baby Going for a Joyride on a Rumba,” and of course “The 40 Most Adorable Baby Animals of 2013” – all valuable time I could have spent moving (or writing a blog post like this one).
Just do a quick web search for “website blocker” and you’ll find options for Macs and PCs.
And if you have other distractions in your life, find ways to avoid or limit them. Your argument about how you don’t have time to workout will soon be moot.
6. Remove your temptations to healthier living
A bag of chips has no chance against me. 8 servings?! 12? Bullshit. That is one serving size – maybe 2 if I ate recently.
So, I don’t buy chips. Ok, I do sometimes buy chips. But I don’t do it often because I am weak when it comes to salty crunchy things. And also cookies. The reason that the Fuse Pilates DC studio has animal crackers is because I think they are only ok, and I can say no.
Be honest about your weaknesses, and find ways to avoid them.
7. Either workout first, or don’t sit down
If you want to work out in the morning, sleep in your workout clothes. Leave your shoes by the bed, and put them on the second you wake up. Bam. You’re ready to go. So, go.
If you wait until after work to exercise, do not sit down. Don’t do it. Walk into your house, change clothes, and avoid your couch. Once you sit down and start to relax from your day, you are done. It is scientifically proven. Ok, maybe it isn’t, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. You know I’m right.
8. Cue the reward
Why do we do anything at all? Because we get something from it. If you weren’t being paid to go to work, would you show up? Probably not. If you would, it’s because you’re getting something else for being there – camaraderie, creative inspiration, or your secretary is bringing brownies that day.
So, if you’re going to start a healthy habit, figure out a reward that you respond to. If you are a social person, find a friend to bring to class and then go out for coffee afterwards. If you like to dance, find a workout that is dance-y.
If you think exercising sucks, think about the reward you’ll get after you finish. No, not the big aspirational one (wowing your high school frenemy at your class reunion). Think about an immediate reward – I’m going to workout and then I get to go home and watch Scandal reruns. After class, I’m getting a salad from sweetgreen for dinner.
Find a reward to associate with the workout – something your brain will crave.
9. Do it for you
If you’re working out only because someone else wants you to, it’s not going to work. I can give you dozens of reasons why you will be mentally and physical healthier if you exercise, but you need to want it for you. Period.
10. And celebrate your success
I keep a gratitude journal. And every single morning that I get a good night’s sleep, I write it down. For me, restful sleep is something that used to happen almost practically never.
It’s not a big party. It’s not a present. But it’s an acknowledgement that I achieved something important. For me, the gratitude journal works. For you, it might be a new pair of workout pants or a pair of custom tennis shoes. But remember you’re not a dog. You don’t need a treat. A cookie isn’t the best way to reward yourself for being healthier.
It might seem hard to imagine now, but if you commit to making your workout a habit – it will become as simple as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. You won’t even think about it and will reap the rewards of being healthy and having a hardcore physique. Share with us how you make habits stick. What tips do you have to add to keep your workout commitments?
Stay hardcore (and successful) this year,
Need some fitness motivation? Check out Fuse class videos on our YouTube Channel!